Two-thirds feel uncomfortable using race terms at work

Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes (left) topped INvolve's list of ethnic minority role models
PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

Almost two-thirds of employees feel nervous about using the wrong language to discuss race at work, according to a survey by diversity network INvolve.

Its research, released to mark the publication of its annual ethnic minority role model list, found that more than half (56%) felt uncomfortable using the terms ‘Black’, ‘Asian’, ‘BAME’ and ‘ethnic minority’, while 44% said they changed their language choice when speaking to a colleague of a different race.

Just over a third (36%) felt that BAME, which stands for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, is not an appropriate term to use in the workplace.

This echoes recent recommendations from the report on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which called for the term to be taken out of use as it fails to reflect the differences between different ethnic groups.

Despite their discomfort, two-thirds of those surveyed by INvolve had had a conversation with someone at work that was explicitly centred around race or racism.

Some 500 people took part in the survey. Three-quarters were white and a quarter were ‘non-white’.

Suki Sandhu, founder and CEO of INvolve, said the research showed that more could be done to encourage open conversations around race at work.

He said: “The ability to discuss issues surrounding race in the workplace is crucial and if white and other employees don’t have the confidence to have these discussions, we cannot create the meaningful long-term change we need.

“As shown by the lack of ethnic minority representation in senior leadership, systemic racism is still pervasive in British business and until we are all able to have difficult conversations by eliminating the fear surrounding them, we cannot successfully address racial equality in the workplace.”

INvolve’s EMpower list of ethnic minority role models, published in conjunction with Yahoo Finance, placed Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes at its top for playing a central role in breaking down barriers at work for black people and other ethnic minorities.

Menezes said: “It takes time to see shifts in representation at all levels in the organisation. It requires the setting of targets, changes in policy, leading the change from the top and having role models within the business.”

Maryse Gordon, business development manager for data and analytics at the London Stock Exchange, ranked top of its list of future leaders, while ITV CEO Carolyn McCall was recognised as a leading advocate for ethnic minority individuals.

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